Kate Chadbourne, singer, storyteller, harper, poet and teacher, is set to release a new recording of songs that celebrate the eight major festivals of the Irish traditional year, as well as an accompanying e-book of folklore and suggestions for celebration, called “A Celtic Blessing Year.”Creating this collection of folklore-inspired blessing songs kept Chadbourne “happily occupied,” she said, from June 2016 through May 2017, and now she is delighted to share them with the community.
“I love to honor these eight festivals,” Chadbourne says. “Doing so creates an ongoing pageantry of color, story, flavor and celebration through the year, helping me feel in closer communion with the Earth.”
The Lunenburg resident believes that when we sing, tell stories, craft poetry, make music, art and jokes, we create a world of warmth, connection, meaning, joy and hope.
And she loves helping to create that world.
“I joyfully do my part by singing, playing harp and piano, making poems, telling stories, teaching, writing, performing, recording and offering welcome, festivity and a touch of enchantment,” she says.
Chadbourne was eager to find a new way to explore her twin passions of Irish folklore and the power and efficacy of blessing through music.
“I hit upon the idea of creating a song for each of the eight major holidays in the traditional Irish calendar and using these new songs to communicate good wishes and blessing.”
Chadbourne introduces us to these holidays with the “quarter days”: Samhain (pronounced sow-en) on Nov. 1 (with Halloween, or Oiche Shamhna, on Oct. 31); St. Brigit’s Day (referred to as Imbolc in earlier calendars) on Feb. 1; May Day, or Bealtaine, on May 1; and Lunasa (loo-nuh-suh; there are lots of other names for this day) on Aug. 1.
After those four big slices of the “pie,” we have the diagonal slices that are referred to as the “cross-quarter days” (or, in Irish, na rathai cama, “the crocked time periods”). These align very nearly with the solstices and equinoxes: Christmas, this is, in practice, much more a season than a single day; St. Patrick’s Day (which falls near to the spring Equinox) on March 17; Midsummer, or St. John’s Eve, June 21-23; and Michaelmas on Sept. 21
“In addition, I’ve also woven blessings and well-wishing into the songs for all who hear them,” Chadbourne says. “Irish folklore and blessings — two of my most enduring loves!”
Chadbourne says you might ask what these holidays have to do with our life today.
“We are living in a world of seasons, of weather and of change,” she says. “Celebrating these holidays was for the Irish (and can be for us today) one way of declaring what the next six weeks or so is about. In marking time through periodic celebration, we wake up to both the pleasures and the passage of time.”
Chadbourne earned a Ph.D. in Celtic Languages and Literatures from Harvard, “because I am in love with Irish stories, songs, language and folklore,” she says.
“I teach and engage in scholarship because these things continue to enliven and delight me. I perform original and traditional songs and tales because sharing what I love brings me the keenest joy. I keep creating because the world keeps inspiring me, and I feel called to respond.”
In our busy world, Chadbourne believes it’s easy to slide from one end of the calendar to the other, all the while reciting the familiar chant, “Time flies,” and asking, “Where did the month go?”
“My own personal philosophy is to celebrate as many holidays and festivals as possible,” Chadbourne says, “because in doing so, we hold time — and our lives — in both hands and give it a grateful, affectionate looking-over.”
The official release date of “A Celtic Blessing Year” is Lunasa, Saturday, Aug. 1.
“Lunasa is a day associated with ripeness, outdoor fun, berry-picking and ensuring the health of horses by ‘swimming’ them in the sea,” Chadbourne says. “It seemed a perfect time to share this with the world.”
The CD and book are available at www.katechadbourne.com/shop, as well as on iTunes and Spotify. For more information on Kate Chadbourne, or to sign up for her inspiring monthly letters, visit www.katechadbourne.com.